Community Projects of all shapes and colours have been doing good work for years usually on a shoestring budget, bought to life by the community getting involved and giving up their time to make a difference.
I love community gardens and allotment areas; not only reclaiming land, providing essential areas for young and old to learn about and interact with nature but also grow and eat the fruits of their labours. I am a great believer in the the therapeutic power of gardening!
I am also inspired by communities working together to get energy projects off the ground – what an exciting prospect to generate and use energy generated in your community. And being off the gas grid, alternatives to oil bills are looking increasingly attractive…
Energy should be a major concern for all of us, we are and will all be affected by rising costs, climate change and energy security – if your business has a high energy usage what will happen to your operations or growth plans if you cannot secure enough power when you need it? What if phased brownouts were to become a reality? What if the cost of manufacturing your products is no longer feasible because of rising energy and resource costs? This may also sound rather melodramatic but in parts of Shropshire there are already serious power shortage issues –meaning that companies are either having to diversify and generate their own power or link up to local energy projects –or in some cases move county to secure enough power. The local network operators will not upgrade systems as the costs are so high and have said it is down to business to pay the costs, which for many small business is just not feasible.
Why is Britain is so dominated by centralised energy generation? – why aren’t there smaller, district generation and distribution schemes – generate and use it locally, minimise transmission losses? I am not alone in this thought, Encraft, Greenpeace, Sustainability West Midlands have some great ideas on this and some cities are doing it -Birmingham District Energy Company Ltd (BDEC) and our continental neighbours have been doing it for years!
Many reports have been written on decentralising UK energy; I found these ones interesting:
I can’t imagine the ‘big 5’ being particularly enamoured with local energy generation and communities going off grid; but with new, more affordable battery technology, for example the Tesla battery, and the possibility of plugging your house into your electric car to use stored electricity, then recharge the battery from Solar PV, this may become an increasing possibility.
The other good news is that communities are now rising to the challenge, assisted by bodies such as Shrewsbury’s Sharenergy some great projects are already generating power and there are many in the planning stage; ranging from hydropower (http://ludlowhydro.org.uk/), solar (http://pomonasolar.org.uk/) to wind (http://heartlandwind.org.uk) for both domestic and commercial use.
The Rough guide to community energy discusses the wider befits to community energy projects –one I can relate to, having tried to engage residents in resource efficiency is the ‘rebound effect’ – resource efficiency measure fitted = lower bills = increased consumption = no overall energy saving – so not a sustainable solution.
The guide suggests that the metering systems used in community schemes make people think before ‘flicking a switch’. I am not sure if this has been quantified, but I can see this may be plausible as the community is far more educated and have a vested interest in the generation.
Such projects are being funded through community share offers and WRAP currently has funding for rural community energy projects.
If your community is interested at looking at the feasibility of a project I would give someone like Jon Halle at Sharenergy a call.
We also wish Shrewsbury Hydro the very best with the hydro scheme for the weir in Shrewsbury, many volunteer hours have gone into this project by the team to try and make it a reality.
Blog post by Jane Yardley